Dance rising from the east

Denise Fujiwara is a woman with a mission. The respected, multi-talented 50-year-old dancer, choreographer and teacher is intent on proving that artists steeped in Asian performance traditions are producing work that’s every bit as innovative, relevant and engaging as anything coming from the supposedly “mainstream” Eurocentric tradition, reported National Post arts critic Michael Crabb Feb. 21. Wednesday’s fifth CanAsian Dance Festival, a biennial event Fujiwara launched eight years ago and still directs, is part of her ongoing campaign to move artists of Asian heritage to centre stage. As a member of the Canadian modern gymnastics team from 1972 to 1976, the Toronto-born Fujiwara could scarcely have foreseen the important role she was to assume in middle age. Even when she turned to dance, her training was relatively mainstream – she graduated from York University’s dance program in 1979 – and she became a founding member of the now-defunct experimental Toronto Independent Dance Enterprise.

Looming Supreme Court vacancy could tip bench to female majority

Canada soon could make history by becoming the first country in the world with a majority of women on its highest court, reported the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 19. Five of the court’s present justices are men, but that gender balance could easily tip the other way this year since several strong contenders to replace Justice Jack Major, from Alberta, are women. “I think it would be quite extraordinary,” said Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “I’m not aware of any other highest court that has a majority of women.” Monahan, who has advised Prime Minister Paul Martin on possible reforms to the Supreme Court appointment process, said he believes “the prime minister will want to appoint the best candidate” regardless of gender. “With the rough balance that we have got now I think it allows the prime minister the opportunity to say which is the best candidate,” he said. “There may be considerations other than gender, in terms of diversity – it could be (desirable to appoint an) aboriginal, it could be some other diversity quality that might be taken into account.”

Cecil Foster envisions a Canada where values, not race, define us

In Cecil Foster’s latest book, Where Race Does Not Matter, he has envisioned something many say is impossible – a Canada where race is genuinely irrelevant, reported the Guelph Mercury Feb. 19. “I am hoping Canadians will go back and revisit the radical approach we took in the 1960s,” said the 50-year-old University of Guelph sociology professor, York graduate, celebrated novelist and one of Canada’s leading intellectuals on issues of race, politics and culture. “It is because of that radicalism that Canada is still the only truly multicultural society. It takes people on good faith and asks only that they have good intentions.” Foster earned four degrees from York: a Bachelor of Administrative Studies in 1982; a BA in economics in 1985; an MA in 2000 and PhD in 2002 in social and political thought.

The naked and the Dane

Canadian filmmaker and York grad Eva Ziemsen wanted to interview director Lars von Trier so badly for her documentary that she offered to take her clothes off, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 17. Von Trier, director of Dogville, likes to strip his actors bare (often literally) in order to have a clean slate to create feature films with artistic integrity. With that image in mind, Ziemsen decided a little more than a year ago, when she was a graduate student in London, that the best way to get the elusive Danish director to agree to an on-camera tête-à-tête for a documentary she was working on was to get naked. “My offer to conduct the interview naked was a gesture to bare myself first, before I asked him to bare himself,” explained Ziemsen, who holds a master’s degree in feature film from the University of London and a 2003 bachelor’s degree in fine art from York.  Ziemsen, who has her own fledgling film company and has completed seven short films and documentaries, is not sure why von Trier decided to co-operate.  Ziemsen, in addition to teaching multi-media at Humber College and guest-lecturing at York University, is working on an autobiographical film called Sara’s Peace, about a Jewish-German family on a journey of self-discovery.

Move into China could ease Harlequin slump

Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business who has studied romance publisher Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., said an expansion in the massive Chinese market could be a “huge upside” for the slumping Torstar company, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 21. Harlequin has experience gained in Eastern Europe in pricing a product for low-income countries, Middleton said. If it uses that skill to develop appropriate books for China, Harlequin could do very well, he said.

Grad makes first feature-length film

In 1998, York film grad Jai Dixit was working as a screenwriter but wondered if he would ever get to make movies, reported the Woodstock Sentinel-Review Feb. 18. “I pretty much decided what I needed to do was write a script and go full steam ahead and make it,” said the 39-year-old, who graduated from York in 1987. On Feb. 28, the Toronto filmmaker will show his film It All Happens Incredibly Fast, on the big screen in hometown Woodstock for the first time. The movie, privately funded for an incredible $154,000, is a dark, complex story of a medley of bar characters and how they respond during tragic, violent events. Filmed in the Duke of Gloucester, a Yonge Street pub where Dixit once worked, the plot is based in part on true events at the Toronto bar owned by his brother Johnathan.

Island residents dance for film director

Last week, Amherst Island residents stood in the town’s narrow main street garbed in oversized gum boots and bulky winter coats and learned to dance, reported The Kingston Whig-Standard Feb. 21. They did it for Bonnie Marshall, an island resident until four years ago who asked for their help. Marshall, 22, is now a film student at York University in Toronto. The third-year York film student budding director and her nearly 30-person film crew descended on the tranquil island a week ago to complete her latest project.

On air

  • Edgar Dosman, political scientist and a senior fellow at York’s Centre for International & Security Studies, talked about a new poll that concludes Canadians feel proud and optimistic about their place in the world, in an interview aired on CBC Radio’s regional programs in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, Feb. 18. Dosman discussed possible reasons for this, such as a prosperous economy and the exclusion of Canada from the American war on terror.
  • Patricia Wood, geography professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the protest of Rimouski, Que., parents who withdrew their children from school because they said a child with Down Syndrome was taking the teacher’s attention away from their own children, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Feb. 18. Wood has studied tolerance in Canada for years and is co-author of Citizenship and Identity.